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5 Hacks for Digital Nomads to Save More Money

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If you’re ever booked a long vacation — or, heck, even a short one — you know the costs can get out of control in a hurry. Now imagine a vacation that lasts for months on end.

Being a digital nomad isn’t quite like living on vacation (despite what social media would have you believe). If anything, that makes it more expensive, not less. So it’s important to find ways to cut your costs on everything from travel to food to entertainment.

A lot of your cost of living will be set by your destination choices. But there are a few things you can do to help save money no matter where you travel.

1. Take your time between destinations

The only thing more expensive than regular travel is constant travel. Moving countries, or even cities, every few days is exhausting, for your mind, your body — and your bank account.

Slow nomads (aka slowmads) are digital nomads who move at a more reserved pace, often spending several weeks, up to several months, in one city or country at a time. This has a few benefits, such as allowing you to really immerse yourself in each destination.

It’s also often easier on your budget. Many hotels and rentals, for instance, offer discounts on longer-term stays. You’ll also spend less time traveling, so you can purchase larger toiletries, invest in groceries, and learn where to find affordable fun in your local area.

2. Get serious about travel rewards

One of the best things you can do as a full-time traveler is get some great travel rewards credit cards. Everything else aside, a lot of your money will go to travel, so maximizing your purchase rewards here will go a long way toward paying for future travel.

Pick up at least one card that’s a part of the major travel rewards programs:

Cards in these programs earn transferable points that you can use to pay for flights, hotels, and even car rentals.

Even better, a lot of travel rewards cards have extra perks that can save you money and improve your experience. This includes benefits like airport lounge access, hotel status, and free checked bags on flights.

Pro tip: Avoid credit cards that charge foreign transaction fees while traveling. Some rewards cards that are great at home will be very expensive abroad, thanks to transaction fees on purchases in foreign currencies. Check your card’s terms and conditions to see if your card charges a foreign transaction fee.

3. Plan ahead as much as possible

I’d find it impossible to go on even a short trip without a spreadsheet (or two). But even if you’re not normally a planner, you’re going to need to start if you’re going to travel full time.

You can save a ton of money simply by planning ahead, even if it’s just from being able to properly compare your options. As fun as it may be to randomly choose your hotel when you land, it’s hard to do much in the way of price comparisons when you’re stumbling around an unfamiliar city fighting off jet lag.

This applies to more than just accommodations, too. Booking tickets online ahead of time can save you money on a variety of trip costs, from trains to museums. (In some cases, you may not even get access to popular attractions unless you book ahead.)

4. Leave room for flexibility

A big part of the nomadic adventure is enjoying a certain amount of spontaneity of place, the idea that you can go anywhere. And while it’s true that planning ahead is reliable money-saving advice, the opposite can actually work out sometimes, too.

A bit of seat-of-your-pants travel can actually be a good way to save money if you’re truly ambivalent about the when and how. (That’s the key — you have to really be flexible.)

For instance, undersold flights may become more affordable shortly before take-off. Similarly, you could catch last-minute deals on vacation packages through travel portals to less-popular destinations if you can pick up and leave within the deal’s travel window.

5. Embrace local cuisine — by cooking it

There are some parts of the world where it’s actually pretty affordable to dine out regularly (Southeast Asia comes to mind). But for the majority of nomads, a constant diet of takeout is not only bad for the body but also terrible for the budget.

Yes, one of the joys of nomading is trying out all the local cuisines. And you can definitely do that. But embrace it all the way — from the ingredients out. Visit local markets and grocers. Learn the local produce, cheeses, meats, and breads. Take cooking classes.

Then, put it all to good use by cooking your own food, including both local dishes and homey favorites with a local twist. You’ll probably save quite a bit of money, plus you’ll enjoy a level of cultural immersion you’d never get from simply patronizing restaurants.

Being a digital nomad comes with a lot of perks. But it can also be ridiculously expensive, especially if you travel in high-cost-of-living countries. Keep a good budget and stay mindful of your spending to ensure your travel stays manageable.

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The Ascent does not cover all offers on the market. Editorial content from The Ascent is separate from The Motley Fool editorial content and is created by a different analyst team.JPMorgan Chase is an advertising partner of The Ascent, a Motley Fool company. Citigroup is an advertising partner of The Ascent, a Motley Fool company. American Express is an advertising partner of The Ascent, a Motley Fool company. Brittney Myers has positions in American Express. The Motley Fool has positions in and recommends JPMorgan Chase. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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